The first season of Better Things (Season 2 premiere Thursday, Sept. 14, FX) debuted quietly and closed to a deafening chorus of critical huzzahs, but no one had an answer for the question: “Is it a comedy, or is it a drama?” Creator/star Pamela Adlon has summed it up best as an “incredible feelings show,” so there. Better Things is a different animal than other Comics Kinda Play Themselves series; thanks to the influence of Adlon’s creative partner, Louis C.K., the closest comparison is Louie. Adlon’s a far better actor than C.K., and she can make you laugh, cry and scream along with single mom Sam and her three daughters—the most layered, interesting kids on TV, BTW—with uncanny ease. Catch up, noncritics.
Eastbound and Down Goes to School is back in session! Vice Principals (Season 2 premiere Sunday, Sept. 17, HBO), which reunites E&D creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill, is a study in hysterical vulgarity second only to Veep; the heated exchanges between McBride and brilliantly cast co-star Walton Goggins take it to whole ’nother level above Kenny Powers. Season 1 ended with frenemy vice principals Gamby (McBride) and Russell (Goggins) becoming “co-interim principals,” a dirty, dubious victory dampened by Gamby being gunned down in the high school’s parking lot. Nonspoiler: He’s alive, and things are going to get even weirder and darker in Vice Principals’ final (yes, final) nine episodes.
There are very few nominations to complain about in the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards (Sunday, Sept. 17, CBS); the quality is so high, I can let a few Stranger Things nods slide, if not the unbelievable snub of BoJack Horseman (seriously—WT fuck?). And I’ve already decided who’s going to win: Veep (Comedy Series), Better Call Saul (Drama Series), Shameless’ William H. Macy (Lead Actor, Comedy), Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Lead Actress, Comedy), Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk (Lead Actor, Drama), The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss (Lead Actress, Drama), Baskets’ Louie Anderson (Supporting Actor, Comedy), and Westworld’s Thandie Newton (Supporting Actress, Drama). Now you don’t have to watch the Emmys.
The first season of creepypasta (user-generated Internet stories and urban legends) weirdness turned out to be more hype than horror, but Channel Zero: No-End House (Season 2 premiere Wednesday, Sept. 20, Syfy) looks more like the one that will kick the anthology series into high gear. The setup for No-End House is familiar: A young woman (Amy Forsyth) and her friends trip through “a bizarre house of horrors consisting of a series of increasingly disturbing rooms,” but then throws in the twist that her perceived “reality” might be just another room. Like the current season of American Horror Story (how ’bout them clowns?), Channel Zero: No-End House is the stuff of mind-melting nightmares. Yay!
The funniest aspect of afterlife sitcom The Good Place (Season 2 premiere Wednesday, Sept. 20, NBC) could very well be Concerned Christians breathlessly exclaiming, “That’s not the real Heaven!” How could it be? What with the nonjudgmental fun and the presence of brown people? After the big reveals that closed Season 1 (spoilers: The Good Place is actually the Bad Place; Ted Danson’s Michael is a lying liarface; and Kristen Bell’s Eleanor is, well, still a terrible person), The Good Place is open to more possibilities now: Could Michael be pulling a double fake-out as a worthiness test? Is the Bad Place the better place? Is Eleanor actually in Twin Peaks?
CBS has defined Stoopid Summer TV for the last several years—not even counting Big Brother—with hilariously obtuse shows like Under the Dome, Extant, BrainDead and Zoo, but Salvation (Season 1 finale Wednesday, Sept. 20, CBS) is the best/worst yet. For 11 weeks now, an MIT student, a maverick tech billionaire and a woman who does … something? … at the Pentagon have been postulating, posing and occasionally even working to find a way to stop an asteroid from wiping out the planet. The title implies they’ll figure it out, but I’ve been rooting for the mass extinction event since the first episode wherein the phrase “gravity tractor” was uttered. Bring on oblivion! We’ve more than earned it.